Honours Students

Honours Students 2018

Renee Brown
My honours thesis is investigating gender differences in the rating of perpetrators of acquaintance rape scenarios. Previous work has shown that men tend to blame the perpetrator less than women; also, the perpetrator is blamed less when the observer shares an in-group membership with them, or is interpersonally similar to the perpetrator. My study aims to extend upon previous research by investigating whether gender differences in perpetrator blame is due to shared in-group membership with the perpetrator as determined by gender, or due to self-rated interpersonal similarity. My findings may help to inform theory in the area of attributions of blame in rape and gender.
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Sarah Moore
DipCouns BPsychSci

My honours thesis investigates the relationship between emotional disclosure, cognitive load, and victim blame in sexual assault cases. Previous work has shown emotional disclosure may reduce victim blame. I am looking to extend this work, and investigate whether cognitive load impacts this relationship. This research may have a practical application as an intervention in the judicial system.

I am also assisting in a research project that investigates the miscommunication of consent in sexual scenarios.

Dymphna van der Leij
The use of analogies to explain sexual consent have become increasingly common, especially in the wake of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and high profile sexual assault cases where sexual consent is a core issue. However, their effectiveness in improving perceptions, beliefs and behaviours is unknown. My honours project aims to determine the effect that literal or analogically framed sexual assault prevention campaign videos have on various measures including blame attributions, rape myth acceptance, and attitudes and behaviours relating to sexual consent and sexual consent communication. The effect of threat and mood on message processing will also be investigated. This research will help inform better understanding of effective strategies in sexual assault primary prevention and sexual consent communication education.

Honours Students 2017

Harrison Lee
The aim of this honours project is to investigate how mock jurors perceive a victim and perpetrator of an alleged sexual assault when the chronological order of the complainants testimony is disrupted. This research will build on previous work on the impact and overlap of consensual sex scripts during rape cases by establishing whether mock juror's perceptions of blame can be influenced by disrupting the jurors’ narrative of events.
Elizabeth Abbey
Honours Student
My honours thesis aims to investigate the relationship between victim blame and participant emotional disclosure and determine whether cognitive load plays a mediating role. Specifically, the overall goal of this program of research is to determine (1) Whether participant emotional disclosure actually reduces victim blame or whether cognitive load increases victim blame, and (2) Whether stereo-typicality of the victim ratings are increased when cognitive load is higher vs lower. It is hoped that this body of research will facilitate better understanding of the use of emotional disclosure as an intervention for victim blame.

Honours Students 2016

Christie Sherrif
2016 - BPSySc (Hons). Concurrently studying Diploma of Languages (German)
Honours Project: For my Honours research, I investigated the impact of stereotypes on how the public view domestic violence cases. Specifically, I looked at how certain victim-offender relationships (housemates vs dating) and number of abusive incidents (one incident vs multiple incidents) affected how participants assessed blame, risk and need for intervention in a violent scenario between a cohabiting male and female.

It was hypothesised that scenarios with abuse between housemates and/or multiple abusive incidents would be seen as more risky and in greater need of intervention than in scenarios with abuse between intimate partners and/or a single incident of abuse.

Offender blame was hypothesised to be higher in both the housemate and multiple abuse scenarios, while victim blame was hypothesised to be lower in the housemate scenarios but higher in the multiple abuse scenarios. These effects were expected to be mediated by participants’ levels of domestic violence myth acceptance.
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Melanie Bentley
2016 - BPsySc (Hons)
Honours Project:A substantial amount of research into victim blaming and secondary victimization has shown when people perceive the victim as blameworthy in the situation, they will be less punitive or react less negatively to the perpetrator, however when the victim is deemed “innocent”, people are more punitive towards the perpetrator, and blame the perpetrator more (Bal & van den Bos, 2015; Hayes, Lorenz, & Bell, 2013; Kaplan, 2012; Landström, Strömwall, & Alfredsson, 2015).

It can be said that the underlying construct of this effect is personal threat. When people observe a crime that they can relate to because they identify with the victim, and or they could see themselves behaving in the same way under the same circumstances, people will blame the victim less and become more punitive toward the perpetrator as a form of self-protection.

The current study aimed to investigate how a victim’s similarity and their level of control in the scenario contribute additively to effect participant’s recommended punishment for the crime, and participant’s blame assignment to the victim and perpetrator, for a legally equitable crime. In line with previous research, it was predicted that there will be a main effect of victim similarity such that participants who were similar to the victims would react more negatively to the perpetrator in the form of greater support for harsher punishment, than participants who were dissimilar to the victims (Hypothesis 1).

In line with the counterfactual literature, it was predicted there will be a main effect of victim control such that victims who were perceived as having higher control would be seen as more blameworthy, thus participants would react less harshly to the perpetrator, than in cases where the victims had low perceived control (Hypothesis 2). Furthermore, it is predicted that the effect of similarity and control on support for harsher punishment, will be mediated by perceived personal threat (Hypothesis 3).
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Sophia Neill
2016 - BPSySc (Hons)
Honours Project: The role of a juror is to evaluate the evidence presented at trial and come to a decision based solely on that evidence. In cases where there is evidence that is difficult or outside the area of common knowledge, an expert witness may be brought in to provide an explanation of that evidence. As a result, expert witness testimony is often highly complex and can be hard to comprehend. This poses a problem as the dual process models of persuasion posit that when the content of a message is difficult to understand that this can lead individuals to rely on cues and stereotypes to evaluate the message (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Chaiken, Liberman & Eagly, 1989).

Previous research has supported this notion in the context of expert witness testimony with a number of stereotypes having been found to impact jurors’ evaluations. These include stereotypes relating to the expert’s gender, the case domain, and the expert’s credentials (Schuller, Terry & McKimmie, 2001; McKimmie, Newton, Terry & Schuller, 2004; Cooper, Bennett & Sukel, 1996). From these previous studies it could be argued that jurors’ evaluations can be influenced by the expert’s gender congruency or the expert’s perceived knowledge of the case domain. However, as these two factors have not been investigated simultaneously, it is uncertain which factor has the main influence on jurors’ evaluations. This information is needed so that interventions can be developed to help jurors reduce the effects of the appropriate stereotype and allow them to reach fair verdicts based on only the evidence.

The aim of my thesis is to address this issue by providing participants with explicit cues about the expert’s gender congruency and their knowledge of the case domain. In doing so, I aim to determine whether jurors are more influenced by expert witnesses gender congruency or their knowledge.
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